Today's Daily Tip
Describing mindfulness, the great sage Patanjali wrote: Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah, which is generally translated as "Yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind." My own interpretation of this sutra is not a literal rendition of the Sanskrit original, but it explains how Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose) can help you to experience the metaphysical realm within the physical practice, to experience oneness: "Yoga is to everlastingly dance the dance of deities."
Natarajasana is a representation of Shiva, the presiding deity of yoga, who rules over transformation. He helps yogis realize there is more to the world than the immediately evident dichotomy between the physical and nonphysical, the other and non-other. When you first see or practice Natarajasana, you'll likely be focused on the physical aspects of the pose because it is so challenging. Learning it requires tremendous patience, persistence, and resolve. You will need to remain centered and true to your essential nature no matter what appears in your path.
Eventually you'll start to find the eternal and the nonphysical within what might at first have appeared to be the temporal and physical. Then one day, after much perseverance and devotion, you will overcome all obstacles and you will effortlessly feel Shiva's cosmic dance of the coming into and the going out of being and nonbeing. Existence will be divine. And as my teacher B.K.S. Iyengar says, your body will become a temple, this asana a prayer.
Eka Pada Urdhva Virasana
The key to maintaining your balance in Natarajasana is to make the four ligaments that surround the knee supportive and elastic, and the muscles that attach to those ligaments supple and strong. That way, when you're ready for the pose, the knee of your standing leg will support you. This variation of Virasana (Hero Pose) will help make the knee joint resilient. It also provides an intense stretch along the inner thigh in the adductor muscles, which will prepare you for the final pose.
Fold a blanket and place it against a wall. Kneel facing away from the wall. Bend your left knee, raising your foot closer to your buttock. Shuffle back and place your knee on the blanket, with your left shin against the wall. Place the sole of the right foot on the floor in front of the blanket and lunge forward, keeping the knee above the ankle. Initially, keep the hips low and forward and rest your fingertips on the floor on either side of the right foot.
As you stay and breathe in this simple pose, you are already learning the dance of Nataraja. Surrender to the reality of your experience while maintaining your sense of center. Be ready to gradually release more deeply into the pose if that becomes available to you.
To come into the next stage of the pose, slide your hands up your right thigh and, as you exhale, push your thighbone down toward the floor and lift your hips up and back toward the wall behind you. Aim for placing the buttocks on the inside of the left foot the same way you would in a classic Virasana and having your whole back against the wall.